Meadowbrook Congregational Church
Rev. Art Ritter
January 26, 2020
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
Laura and I are just a couple of weeks away from our Florida vacation. This year we are going a few days later than normal. And this year we are going to have to watch our spending a bit more than in past years. I am usually a very budget conscious person, except when I go on vacation. While away from home I like to eat out, I like to treat myself to food and drink I wouldn’t otherwise enjoy, and I am prone to use the credit card a bit more than I should. I don’t experience the pain of my impulse buying until a month or so later when all of the credit card bills come due.
I love T-shirts. T-shirts remind me of the fun and relaxing places I visited while on vacation. So every year I impulsively buy three or four Vero Beach T-shirts to bring back home. When I get home, those Vero Beach T-shirts join all of my other Vero Beach T-shirts in a big pile in my closet. Maybe this year, I will only buy one new T-shirt!
I read an article on the AskReddit website this week. The question asked was, “What did you impulse buy that you instantly regret?” My answer to the question is a compact power washer. One night while lying in bed, flipping through the cable channels, I landed on the Home Shopping Network. They were demonstrating this new power washer. It was portable and it didn’t take up much room or make much noise. And as demonstrated by the host, it removed a lot of dirt and grime from patio furniture, decks, and sidewalks. So I hopped out of bed, went online and purchased it immediately. I have owned the compact power washer for three years now. It sits quietly in the front of my garage. I have used it twice. Perhaps I should sell it to buy more T-shirts?
The AskReddit question produced some interesting and rather entertaining answers. One person bought a pack of 700 various shaped googly eyes to use as an April Fools’ joke. Many of the googly eyes were smaller than the thickness of a pencil so when he opened the box they went all over the floor. There were googly eyes everywhere, impossible to pick up. So he ended up sweeping them up and throwing them away.
Another person bought a drone. He flew it for five minutes to see how high it would fly. It was a windy day and he never saw the drone again.
A woman’s uncle was excited to buy a shipping container, sight unseen, filled to the brim with furniture which he planned to sell one piece at a time for the next few months. He estimated that he would make over $80 profit, per piece. When the shipping container arrived they discovered they had no place to store the furniture. They rented a storage locker which to this day is still full of furniture, costing them over $100 a month.
A girl bought $250 worth of skin care products from a mall kiosk. She was 14 years old and was too shy to tell the sales person no. She spent the entire summer babysitting to pay off the credit card bill. And she never used the skin care products.
Finally, a man bought a 1974 Dodge Charger that was partially wrecked and was sitting in a field. He figured he could fix the body and get it started with minimal effort so he wrote a check for $800, started the car and began to drive it home. The previous owner failed to mention that there was a hole in the oil pan and a rag had been stuffed into it to prevent a leak. On the way to its new home, the rag fell out, and the engine exploded. The project car got towed the rest of the way.
The moral of the story is to think twice before deciding to buy. It may seem important at the time, or appropriate at the time, or even funny at the time. But you have to be prepared to live with the consequences of your decision.
We make snap decisions all of the time in life. At a restaurant, we don’t know what to order but when the waiter shows up ready to take our order we shout out a burger or club sandwich or a salad. We are at the checkout counter at Office Max with paper and file folders and ink cartridges in hand. Suddenly we decide that we need some Red Vines candy or Goldfish crackers. Sometimes we open our mouths and say something quickly or passionately, something we might later regret. Sometimes we agree to take on a task or do a friend a favor and deep down inside we know that we don’t have the skills or the time to follow through on our commitment.
But sometimes our quick decisions turn out pretty well. Our decision to see that movie or eat at that restaurant or attend that concert expanded our taste and our knowledge and our experience. That person whom we didn’t know but agreed to go to dinner with, turned out to be a life-time friend or partner. That meeting or conference that we reluctantly attended introduced us to another, more beneficial job opportunity. The task we volunteered for provided us with a surprisingly meaningful experience. Perhaps you are here this morning because you made a snap decision to get out of bed instead of sleeping in, or many years ago you made the snap decision to visit Meadowbrook Congregational Church and you kept coming back.
This morning’s Scripture lesson describes some snap decisions. Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee and he calls two brother, Peter and Andrew, who were casting their fishing nets into the sea. Jesus issues an invitation, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Matthew says that the men left their nets behind and immediately and followed him. The same thing happens when Jesus encounters two more brothers, James and John. He issues a similar request and they drop their nets and immediately follow him.
I’ve often wondered what was going through the minds of Peter and Andrew and James and John. How could they have made such a snap decision, to leave everything behind and follow somebody who they didn’t really know? Matthew uses the word “immediately” twice. This was a choice made quickly. If I were fishing the Sea of Galilee that day, I would have told Jesus that he had to check back with me in a couple of weeks, after I had used the time to do a complete background check upon him, checked his references, spoke to my trusted friends and advisors, shared the details of my plans with my family, and finally prayed and thought about it seriously. How could any reasonable person make such a snap decision about such an important thing?
Alyce McKenzie writes that perhaps the disciples’ choice to follow Jesus was not a snap as it is portrayed. She argues that every decision is made in a context. The decision to follow Jesus may have been one step in an ongoing process. Perhaps they had heard of him and were considering learning more about him. In their quick experience of him they heard more and saw more. In the light of his teaching and his healings they began to trust him more, making more snap decisions based on that trust. Instead of a once and for all time decision made on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were put into the position of having to make snap decisions about following Jesus each and every day, decisions about being light instead of darkness, about loving God with one’s whole being, about loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Sometimes our snap decisions are not so good- Peter chose to deny Jesus three times. But it was one step in his process of dealing with fear with faith. McKenzie concludes that our decision to follow Jesus needs to be continually renewed. One quick decision is not enough. We have to keep making snap decisions all of our life, one after another, to keep following where Jesus might lead us.
In pre-marital counseling, I like to tell couples that their vows are not a once time statement made in a beautiful ceremony in front of family and friends. The vows of such a covenant are something that need to be repeated and exercised in so many ways each and every day of a marriage. While we might make one formal and public decision to join a partner in marriage, we make hundreds of snap decisions each week that confirm or deny our intention to honor that covenant. Each day is a recommitment to our vows, for the rest of our lives.
Life can come at us very fast. Sometimes the best decisions we make are snap decisions. There may be choices to make that take some time and give us the opportunity to mull things over. But even on the most ordinary of days we have decision that show up at our door without a moment’s notice. These are the choices that test our character and require us to apply our faith and purpose immediately and continuously. Author Matt Tullos says, “from time to time God give us a pop quiz.”
Perhaps the disciples weren’t so crazy after all. Perhaps we are just like them, making a decision to follow this journey with Jesus, opening ourselves to his power and his grace, understanding that our following is not a one-time decision that removes all doubt, but a choice that leads to daily decisions that confirm our identity as his disciples.